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3 ways to get creative with your rhythm guitar playing like Van Halen, Rush, Soundgarden and Nile Rodgers

Chris Cornell
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Guitar lessons: In this lesson we are looking at  three broad concepts for rhythm guitar. First is the idea of combining rhythm and lead guitar.

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The ultimate Jimi Hendrix rhythm guitar chord lesson

Most players do this and bands with only one guitarist are the main exponents: Rush, Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix for example. It’s a vast topic, so it’s perhaps better to focus your practice on rhythm and lead separately and rely on inspiration to bring your ideas together.

We’re also looking at odd time and 16th-note style funk rhythms. And if you’re bitten by the odd time bug, Soundgarden’s Outshined weaves through 7/4, 4/4, 6/4 and 5/8 time signatures so it's a good one to get stuck into!

1. Combining rhythm and lead guitar 

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(Image credit: Future)

Few guitarists are as adept at combining rhythm and lead as Eddie Van Halen. Our EVH-inspired line features melodic flourishes at the end of bars 2 and 4. It’s a great way to give your riffs a lift, so, if you’re struggling, try omitting the preceding D chord to begin with rather than ditching the colourful melodic bits. 

2. Odd time 

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Any guitarist working on their rhythm skills needs to think about common time and odd time. The former is 4/4 time, where, in general, you’ll count to four to keep time. 

Our riff is in the ‘odd’ time signature of 5/4, so you’ll count to five. Listen to bands like Soundgarden and Rush for some odd time inspiration.

3. Get funky 

(Image credit: Future)

Nile Rodgers and his Fender Stratocaster (nicknamed ‘The Hitmaker’) have featured on countless top 40 hits, initially with Chic but also with Duran Duran, David Bowie and Daft Punk. 

You’ll need a steady down-up style strumming approach to get close to his style. Aim to strike only two or three strings at one time for the full funky effect.

Learn 5 Nile Rodgers funk guitar chords